Fury as China executes British drug smuggler
Fierce condemnation as last-ditch attempt to prevent death of Akmal Shaikh, 53, fails
Alexandra Topping, Nicholas Watt and Jonathan Watts in Beijing
The Guardian, Tuesday 29 December 2009
China was this morning condemned for its human rights record after a British man who, his supporters say, had mental health problems, was executed for smuggling drugs.
Akmal Shaikh, 53, was shot dead by a firing squad at 10.30am local time (2.30am British time) after frantic last-minute pleas for clemency by the Foreign Office failed.
Britain had demonstrated its anger with Beijing over the treatment of Shaikh, who had smuggled 4kg (8.8lb) of heroin into China, when it summoned the Chinese ambassador for a diplomatic dressing down at the Foreign Office.
Supreme Court has saved toughest cases for second half
By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court entered its holiday intermission with the starkest drama put off until the second act.
When justices return on Jan. 11 for their next oral arguments, they’ll barely have scratched the surface of the 2009 term. They’ve issued only four decisions so far, none dealing with the cases for which the term is likely to be remembered.
With more than 50 scheduled cases yet to be heard or decided, and other cases still to be added, some of these pending questions are pretty fundamental.
U.S. Struggles Anew to Ensure Safety as Gaps Are Revealed
By ERIC LIPTON
Published: December 28, 2009
WASHINGTON – Airline passengers are now increasingly being patted down, and carry-ons are being double-checked since a self-proclaimed terrorist tried to bring down a passenger jet headed to Detroit on Christmas Day. Canine teams are out in force, sniffing for explosives.
Starting this past weekend, more international flights bound for the United States have had plainclothes air marshals mixed in with passengers. Extra teams of specially trained security officers have been roaming airports looking for tells among the passengers – furtive glances or people who nervously open and close bags repeatedly.
Nevada reins in horse herds, but critics decry methods
By Oskar Garcia
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
LAS VEGAS — A two-month roundup of about 2,500 wild horses from public and private lands in northern Nevada began on Monday amid protests that the plan is unnecessary and inhumane.
Federal officials said the roundup counteracts overpopulation on 850 square miles of land, which could become unlivable to wildlife and livestock within four years.
Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman JoLynn Worley said the agency began gathering horses on Monday in the eastern portion of the Black Rock Range, a stretch of mountains more than 100 miles north of Reno.
Northern Ireland MP who made anti-gay remarks to stand down
Iris Robinson speaks publicly about long battle with severe depression after series of operations
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 29 December 2009
A Northern Ireland MP, who made headlines last year for her anti-gay remarks, yesterday said she was suffering from serious depression and cited ill health as a reason for leaving public life.
Iris Robinson was elected as a Democratic Unionist MP for Strangford in 2001. She is the wife of Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, and said she had discussed with him over Christmas her decision to stand down, after a recent operation.
She attracted criticism after saying she believed homosexuality was an abomination which made her feel sick. Her remarks came barely a day after a gay man was killed in a homophobic attack.
Police urged to scour resort as mystery of missing skier deepens
Foul play feared as family applies to Swiss courts for order permitting house-to-house searches
By Cahal Milmo, Chief Reporter Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Shortly before he left for the Swiss Alpine village of Wengen 10 days ago, Myles Robinson was in an ebullient mood. He was due to start a hard-won job in the new year and about to visit his family’s chosen winter holiday destination for the last 15 years. On his Facebook page, he wrote: “I am leaving to go skiing. Merry Christmas.”
Today, the 23-year-old Briton’s parents and sister mark an unhappy milestone since what should have been a happy break turned into a missing person hunt with increasingly sinister overtones of foul play. A week ago exactly, Mr Robinson, a fit and healthy young man, vanished on a clear night while walking 300 yards to his family’s rented flat.
Body of Mousavi’s nephew taken from Tehran hospital
Seven prominent opposition members arrested following clashes that erupted at weekend
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, in Tehran Tuesday, 29 December 2009
The body of the nephew of Iran’s opposition leader – slain in the deadliest day of anti-government protests in months – disappeared from hospital yesterday, and security forces detained at least seven prominent activists, according to opposition reports.
Iranian state television said that eight people had died in Sunday’s street violence, but independent confirmation of the casualty toll was virtually impossible because of curbs on media coverage. Tehran residents say restrictions on internet access were intensified, and Iranians were unable to see opposition websites. Mobile phone and text-messaging services were sporadic.
Iran is moving close to tipping point of revolution
From The Times
December 29, 2009
Michael Binyon: Commentary
When does an uprising become a revolution? Throughout history, demonstrations, strikes and riots have brought crowds out on to the streets and threatened governments. In most countries a swift crackdown coupled with political concessions have usually contained popular unrest. But when violence is extreme, anger long pent up and regimes lose their nerve, a tipping point is reached and revolution sweeps the land. Has Iran reached that point?
Japan’s army of hostesses break shackles of exploitation by forming a union
From The Times
December 29, 2009
Leo Lewis in Tokyo
Japan’s hostesses, the army of women who work on the fringes of the country’s sex industry, have come out of the shadows to smash the shackles of exploitation by forming a union.
With only ten members at present, but with the potential to attract tens of thousands, the hostess union opened its telephone lines this month in the quest for recruits. It is not the advances of clients that are to blame for this new sisterhood. The abuse, they say, comes from their employers.
Once a critical mass of membership is attained the union could hold the salarymen of Japan at its mercy. Forget baggage handlers and train drivers. If the hostesses stand shoulder to satin-strapped shoulder and threaten to strike, Japan would grind to a halt. At least between 7pm and 4am.
South Korea pardons Samsung’s ex-chief Lee Kun-hee
The South Korean government has decided to pardon the powerful former chairman of Samsung, convicted for tax evasion, the justice ministry has said.
The BBC Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Lee Kun-hee is to be pardoned so he can return to the International Olympics Committee and help South Korea’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Mr Lee was pardoned on a separate funding conviction in 1997.
Presidential pardons are often granted to leaders of South Korea’s large, family-owned businesses or “chaebols”.
“This decision was made so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyongchang,” justice minister Lee Kwi-nam told reporters, following a cabinet meeting that approved the latest pardon.
Al Qaeda rises in West Africa
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the terror suspect who allegedly tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day – hails from Nigeria in West Africa. The Monitor takes a look at how the fight against Al Qaeda is going in the region.
By Scott Baldauf Staff writer / December 27, 2009
At a remote training camp in northern Mali, US Army coun terinsurgency specialists are teaching 160 Malian troops combat skills they can use to defend their country against attacks by Al Qaeda.
And they may have to call upon that training sooner rather than later.
A shadowy group called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has busily set up shop in northern Mali, US military commanders and security experts say, passing easily through the porous borders of Mali, Algeria, Mauritania, and Niger to carry out kidnappings of foreign aid workers and tourists. AQIM also attacked a Malian military convoy in July, killing several troops, and was implicated in the assassination of a Malian military intelligence officer one week after killing a British tourist in a group it had been holding for nearly six months. (Four other hostages had been released; one was still held at press time.)
Argentina puts officials on trial over the abuses of the ‘Dirty War’
By Juan Forero
Washington post foreign service
Monday, December 28, 2009
They are old and balding now, the 15 defendants standing trial before a three-judge panel near the Argentine capital’s bustling port. But prosecutors say they were once the feared henchmen of a brutal military dictatorship.
Argentina has tried military men before. But this trial, of officers and policemen who ran clandestine torture centers known as the Athletic Club, the Bank and Olimpo, is one of a string of new proceedings that by next year will close some of the most emblematic cases of alleged state terrorism under Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship.